Slow living, Sustainability

Re-examining sustainable living

For the most of my adult life, I have tried my best to live in a way that does the least damage to the earth and the environment. I have embraced several sustainable practices in my daily and work life; it’s never enough of course, but it’s a path to which I am committed, which includes always striving to do more.

It’s becoming increasingly evident to me, however, that I need to focus on another, and equally – if not more – important aspect of sustainability, namely that which affects my mental, emotional, and physical health. I’ve discussed previously my concern over society’s increasing obsession with busyness, and how it’s become equivalent to an Olympic sport, where people compete with each other over the extent of their busyness. I’ve been trying to pursue a slower way of living, but my efforts have been far from consistent, so I’m going to challenge myself here to treat myself as sustainably as I do the environment.

Slow living isn’t a new concept; it sprung from the Slow Food movement, which traces its origins to 1986, in response to the proposed opening of a McDonald’s in the Piazza di Spagna. Several Italians expressed anger at this proposal and, while McDonald’s did open the location, which is still there today, this reaction led to the establishment Slow Food International 1989. This movement espouses the following principles:

Slow Food envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet.Our approach is based on a concept of food that is defined by three interconnected principles: good, clean and fair.

  • GOOD: quality, flavorsome and healthy food
  • CLEAN: production that does not harm the environment
  • FAIR: accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers

I have adopted various slow food practices, such as shopping from local farmers, making my own food, eating at local restaurants that support local food producers, and avoiding fast food. My attitude towards food is one of joy, since I consider cooking to be a creative pursuit that nourishes my soul.

Related to the concept of slow food is that of slow living, which is defined as a mindset whereby you curate a more meaningful and conscious lifestyle that’s in line with what you value most in life. It means doing everything at the right speed. Instead of striving to do things faster, the slow movement focuses on doing things better. Often, that means slowing down, doing less, and prioritising spending the right amount of time on the things that matter most to you.

While I’ve tried to embrace the concept of slow living, I haven’t done so as consistently as I would like, so I’m challenging myself in the next months to do this more deliberately. I’ve fallen off the slow living wagon over the past few weeks, and I’m seeing all too clearly the negative effects this is having on my mental, physical, and emotional health. I’m good at burying and ignoring mental and emotional health, but my physical health sends me the loudest alarm bells, since it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the significant increase in the manifestations of chronic health conditions, especially my widespread arthritis (the result of years of martial arts). I’m thus making a commitment to living a life that sustains me, as well as the planet, and to explore in more depth the three primary principes of slow living:

  • Live by your values – simplifying
  • Everyday deceleration – looking inwards
  • Live consciously – looking outwards

I will explore each of these principles in the next few posts as well as tangible steps I can take towards living them daily. Some useful resources that I will consult include:

Slow Living LDN

Seeking Slow: Reclaim Moments of Calm in Your Day

In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed

The Slow Living Guide

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